Tag Archives: Dell

A glimpse at what was new at NAB

By Lance Holte

I made the trek out to Las Vegas last week for the annual NAB show to take in the latest in post production technology, discuss new trends and products and get lost in a sea of exhibits. With over 1,700 exhibitors, it’s impossible to see everything (especially in the two days I was there), but here are a handful of notable things that caught my eye.

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Studio 14: While the “non-studio” version is still free, it’s hard to beat the $299 license for the full version of Resolve. As 4K and 3D media becomes increasingly prevalent, and with the release of their micro and mini panels, Resolve can be a very affordable solution for editors, mobile colorists and DITs.

The new editorial and audio tools are particularly appealing to someone like me, who is often more hands-on on the editorial side than the grading side of post. To that regard, the new tracking features look to provide extra ease of use for quick and simple grades. I also love that Blackmagic has gotten rid of the dongles, which removes the hassle of tracking numerous dongles in a post environment where systems and rooms are swapped regularly. Oh, and there’s bin, clip and timeline locking for collaborative workflows, which easily pushes Resolve into the competition for an end-to-end post solution.

Adobe Premiere CC 2017 with After Effects and Audition Adobe Premiere is typically my editorial application of choice, and the increased integration of AE and Audition promise to make an end-to-end Creative Cloud workflow even smoother. I’ve been hoping for a revamp of Premiere’s title tool for a while, and the Essential Graphics panel/new Title Tool appears to greatly increase and streamline Premiere’s motion graphics capabilities — especially as someone who does almost all my graphics work in After Effects and Photoshop. The more integrated the various applications can be, the better; and Adobe has been pushing that aspect for some time now.

On the audio side, Premiere’s Essential Sound Panel tools for volume matching, organization, cleanup and other effects without going directly into Audition (or exporting for ProTools, etc.) will be really helpful, especially for smaller projects and offline mixes. And as a last note, the new Camera Shake Deblur effect in After Effects is fantastic.

Dell UltraSharp 4K HDR Monitor — There were a lot of great looking HDR monitors at the show, but I liked that this one fell in the middle of the pack in terms of price point ($2K), with solid specs (1000 nits, 97.7% of P3, and 76.9% of Rec. 2020) and a reasonable size (27 inches). Seems like a good editorial or VFX display solution, though the price might be pushing budgetary constraints for smaller post houses. I wish it was DCI 4K instead of UHD and a little more affordable, but that will hopefully come with time.

On that note, I really like HP’s DreamColor Z31x Studio Display. It’s not HDR, but it’s 99% of the P3 colorspace, and it’s DCI 4K — as well as 2K, by multiplying every pixel at 2K resolution into exactly 4 pixels — so there’s no odd-numbered scaling and sharpening required. Also, I like working with large monitors, especially at high resolutions. It offers automated (and schedulable) color calibration, though I’d love to see a non-automated display in the future if it could bring the price down. I could see the HP monitor as a great alternative to using more expensive HDR displays for the majority of workstations at many post houses.

As another side note, Flanders Scientific’s OLED 55-inch HDR display was among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, but with numerous built-in interfaces and scaling capabilities, it’s likely to come at a higher price.

Canon 4K600STZ 4K HDR laser projector — This looks to be a great projection solution for small screening rooms or large editorial bays. It offers huge 4096×2400 resolution, is fairly small and compact, and apparently has very few restraints when it comes to projection angle, which would be nice for a theatrical edit bay (or a really nice home theater). The laser light source is also attractive because it will be low maintenance. At $63K, it’s at the more affordable end of 4K projector pricing.

Mettle 360 Degree/VR Depth plug-ins: I haven’t worked with a ton of 360-degree media, but I have dealt with the challenges of doing depth-related effects in a traditional single-camera space, so the fact that Mettle is doing depth-of-field effects, dolly effects and depth volumetric effects with 360-degree/VR content is pretty incredible. Plus, their plug-ins are designed to integrate with Premiere and After Effects, which is good news for an Adobe power user. I believe they’re still going to be in beta for a while, but I’m very curious to see how their plug-ins play out.

Finally, in terms of purely interesting tech, Sony’s Bravia 4K acoustic surface TVs are pretty wild. Their displays are OLED, so they look great, and the fact that the screen vibrates to create sound instead of having separate speakers or an attached speaker bar is awfully cool. Even at very close viewing, the screen doesn’t appear to move, though it can clearly be felt vibrating when touched. A vibrating acoustic surface raises some questions about mounting, so it may not be perfect for every environment, but interesting nonetheless.


Lance Holte is an LA-based post production supervisor and producer. He has spoken and taught at such events as NAB, SMPTE, SIGGRAPH and Createasphere. You can email him at lance@lanceholte.com.

VFX Storage: The Molecule

Evolving to a virtual private local cloud?

By Beth Marchant

VFX artists, supervisors and technologists have long been on the cutting-edge of evolving post workflows. The networks built to move, manage, iterate, render and put every pixel into one breathtaking final place are the real super heroes here, and as New York’s The Molecule expands to meet the rising demand for prime-time visual effects, it pulls even more power from its evolving storage pipeline in and out of the cloud.

The Molecule CEO/CTO Chris Healer has a fondness for unusual workarounds. While studying film in college, he built a 16mm projector out of Legos and wrote a 3D graphics library for DOS. In his professional life, he swiftly transitioned from Web design to motion capture and 3D animation. He still wears many hats at his now bicoastal VFX and VR facility, The Molecule —which he founded in New York in 2005 — including CEO, CTO, VFX supervisor, designer, software developer and scientist. In those intersecting capacities, Healer has created the company’s renderfarm, developed and automated its workflow, linking and preview tools and designed and built out its cloud-based compositing pipeline.

When the original New York office went into growth mode, Healer (pictured at his new, under-construction facility) turned to GPL Technologies, a VFX and post-focused digital media pipeline and data infrastructure developer, to help him build an entirely new network foundation for the new location the company will move to later this summer. “Up to this point, we’ve had the same system and we’ve asked GPL to come in and help us create a new one from scratch,” he says. “But any time you hire anyone to help with this kind of thing, you’ve really got to do your own research and figure out what makes sense for your artists, your workflows and, ultimately, your bottom line.”

The new facility will start with 65 seats and expand to more than 100 within the next year to 18 months. Current clients include the major networks, Showtime, HBO, AMC, Netflix and director/producer Doug Limon.

UKS-beforesmall      UKS-aftersmall
Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is just one of the shows The Molecule works on.

Healer’s experience as an artist, developer, supervisor and business owner has given him a seasoned perspective on how to develop VFX pipeline work. “There’s a huge disparity between what the conventional user wants to do, i.e. share data, and the much longer dialog you need to have to build a network. Connecting and sharing data is really just the beginning of a very long story that involves so many other factors: how many things are you connecting to? What type of connection do you have? How far away are you from what you’re connecting to? How much data are you moving, and it is all at once or a continuous stream? Users are so different, too.”

Complicating these questions, he says, are a facility’s willingness to embrace new technology before it’s been vetted in the market. “I generally resist the newest technologies,” he says. “My instinct is that I would prefer an older system that’s been tested for years upon years. You go to NAB and see all kinds of cool stuff that appears to be working the way it should. But it hasn’t been tried in different kinds of circumstances or its being pitched to the broadcast industry and may not work well for VFX.”

Making a Choice
He was convinced by EMC’s Isilon system, based on customer feedback and the hardware has already been delivered to the new office. “We won’t install it until construction is complete, but all the documentation is pointing in the right direction,” he says. “Still, it’s a bit of a risk until we get it up and running.”

Last October, Dell announced it would acquire EMC in a deal that is set to close in mid-July. That should suit The Molecule just fine —most of its artists computers are either Dell or HP running Nvidia graphics.

A traditional mass configuration on a single GigE line can only do up to 100MB per second. “A 10GigE connection running in NFS can, theoretically, do 10 times that,” says Healer. “But 10GigE works slightly differently, like an LA freeway, where you don’t change the speed limit but you change the number of lanes and the on and off ramp lights to keep the traffic flowing. It’s not just a bigger gun for a bigger job, but more complexity in the whole system. Isilon seems to do that very well and it’s why we chose them.”

His company’s fast growth, Healer says, has “presented a lot of philosophical questions about disk and RAID redundancy, for example. If you lose a disk in RAID-5 you’re OK, but if two fail, you’re screwed. Clustered file systems like GlusterFS and OneFS, which Isilon uses, have a lot more redundancy built in so you could lose quite a lot of disks and still be fine. If your number is up and on that unlucky day you lost six disks, then you would have backup. But that still doesn’t answer what happens if you have a fire in your office or, more likely, there’s a fire elsewhere in the building and it causes the sprinklers to go off. Suddenly, the need for off-site storage is very important for us, so that’s where we are pushing into next.”

Healer honed in on several metrics to help him determine the right path. “The solutions we looked at had to have the following: DR, or disaster recovery, replication, scalability, off-site storage, undelete and versioning snapshots. And they don’t exactly overlap. I talked to a guy just the other day at Rsync.net, which does cloud storage of off-site backups (not to be confused with the Unix command, though they are related). That’s the direction we’re headed. But VFX is just such a hard fit for any of these new data centers because they don’t want to accept and sync 10TB of data per day.”

A rendering of The Molecule NYC's new location.His current goal is simply to sync material between the two offices. “The holy grail of that scenario is that neither office has the definitive master copy of the material and there is a floating cloud copy somewhere out there that both offices are drawing from,” he says. “There’s a process out there called ‘sharding,’ as in a shard of glass, that MongoDB and Scality and other systems use that says that the data is out there everywhere but is physically diverse. It’s local but local against synchronization of its partners. This makes sense, but not if you’re moving terabytes.”

The model Healer is hoping to implement is to “basically offshore the whole company,” he says. “We’ve been working for the past few months with a New York metro startup called Packet which has a really unique concept of a virtual private local cloud. It’s a mouthful but it’s where we need to be.” If The Molecule is doing work in New York City, Healer points out, Packet is close enough that network transmissions are fast enough and “it’s as if the machines were on our local network, which is amazing. It’s huge. It the Amazon cloud data center is 500 miles away from your office, that drastically changes how well you can treat those machines as if they are local. I really like this movement of virtual private local that says, ‘We’re close by, we’re very secure and we have more capacity than individual facilities could ever want.’ But they are off-site and the multiple other companies that use them are in their own discrete containers that never crosses. Plus, you pay per use — basically per hour and per resource. In my ideal future world, we would have some rendering capacity in our office, some other rendering capacity at Packet and off-site storage at Rsync.net. If that works out, we could potentially virtualize the whole workflow and join our New York and LA office and any other satellite office we want to set up in the future.”

The VFX market, especially in New York, has certainly come into its own in recent years. “It’s great to be in an era when nearly every single frame of every single shot of both television and film is touched in some way by visual effects, and budgets are climbing back and the tax credits have brought a lot more VFX artists, companies and projects to town,” Healer says. “But we’re also heading toward a time when the actual brick-and-mortar space of an office may not be as critical as it is now, and that would be a huge boon for the visual effects industry and the resources we provide.”

Behind the Title: Magnetic Dreams director/compositor Joël Gibbs

NAME: Joël Gibbs

COMPANY: Magnetic Dreams (@MagneticDreams)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Magnetic Dreams is an animation studio located in Nashville. We handle a variety of projects ranging from VFX, motion graphics to full CG spots.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Well, it’s sort of a two-headed beast title: Director and Lead Compositor.

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Being a smaller studio, you tend to wear several hats. For me, I’ve somehow worked my way
into being at both ends of the production spectrum. It works out pretty well, since I can Continue reading

AMD, Dell hold user event in New York City

NICK ? ROY

Technicolor Postworks Nick Marucci and Steve Grillo from Brightshot.

AMD and Dell held an event last week in New York City designed to better position themselves in the post production market. While they had technology to show — including AMD FirePro graphics cards and the Dell Precision rack workstation R7610, the tower workstation  T7610 and the mobile workstation M6800 — for the post pros in attendance, the key part of the intimate event was to share information. This included asking questions about what pros need day to day from their technology and workflow, what their pain points are, how Dell (www.dell.com) and AMD (www.amd.com) can help, and what they could do better.

David from Prime Focus

Prime Focus senior editor David Gauff, who won a FirePro graphics card at the event.

It was an open and honest discussion intended to help the product makers as well as the users, who also took the opportunity to mingle with peers from the New York area.  Guests included artist from studios of all sizes, working in a variety of aspects of the industry, including visual effects, editing and finishing.

“It was great to meet with the team behind the machines,” said Fred Ruckel, creative director at Rucksack NY. “With so many options today, being able to discuss my company’s needs at length was refreshing. When the conversation switched to innovation and future workflows, they took copious notes for implementation in future releases. It felt nice to actually be heard.”

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